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COMPUTER PLAY WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

Computers and babies? Today’s software programs are being designed for babies as young as 9 months old - this may not be as far-fetched as it seems. As computers are becoming more common in homes, software programs offer ways for even the youngest child to participate in this new family activity. As fun and learning come when parents and babies play together, these programs are often referred to as “lapware” - intended to be used by children with their parents. Programs include subject matter that appeals to the young child's natural curiosity as well as easy controls that allow the child to make changes on the screen. Well-designed software responds to what the baby normally does; random "banging" on the keyboard or mouse "clicking" prompts a response. A parent's role is critical in interacting with their child with this new "toy". As with any engaging activity, there doesn’t need to be a “goal” when playing. Simply enjoying the computer responses together can be fun!

Although software programs are designed for all children, babies with disabilities may find additional benefits. For them, computer activities can simulate traditional play sequences that are easier to control. For example, a child who likes to watch block towers being built and then knocked down, but is unable to experience this himself due to physical limitations, can do it "all by himself" with the press of a single key, mouse or switch.

With so many choices of what to select for beginning computer play, this booklet offers suggestions on what to look for in software as well as ideas to ensure that young children have fun with computers. Making something happen, then choosing when, where and what will happen are adventures the young child experiences as s/he explores this new, interactive environment. The following information is designed to guide parents and the professionals who use computers with children with disabilities, in ways that will make computer play an engaging and interactive experience!

 

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